Manchester United loanee Tom Cleverley will serve a one-game suspension for picking up five domestic yellow cards at Aston Villa when his current employers host the midfielder's parent club in the Premier League next weekend.
The Daily Mail reports how the 25-year-old's booking against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday will expose a loophole in the Football Association's regulations which sees Cleverley miss a match that he was ineligible for anyway.
Due to a clause written into the exiled England international's season-long agreement at Villa Park, the Red Devils outcast is unable to play against Louis van Gaal's side in any meeting between the two sides in 2014/15.
However, because that condition is a consensus between Manchester United and Aston Villa it is not recognised by the FA as a reason to overrule the standard banning order, which will essentially give Cleverley a free pass and be back in contention for the Midlands club's Boxing Day trip to Swansea City.
A rare instance like this will inevitably raise question marks over whether Cleverley purposely got himself cautioned at The Hawthorns, particularly after Paul Lambert's side were reduced to ten men following Kieran Richardson's straight red card against the Baggies.
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Richardson will be absent for the next three games and with Ashley Westwood expected to be sidelined for another three weeks with a knee injury, Cleverley's 'early return' to action will be viewed as rather fortuitous for Aston Villa in the middle of a busy Christmas period.
The one game ban for five yellow cards ruling is wiped clean on December 31, so Cleverley has essentially been given a huge lifeline in light of the FA's ambiguous stance when suspensions come about in this manner.
Manchester United supporters would probably not care that much whether Cleverley played against them or not, given how disappointing his performances have been over the past couple of years.
However, for Van Gaal's next opponents the decision will undoubtedly come as a blessing, especially as Lambert will be conscious of not asking too much of Cleverley's central midfield partner Fabian Delph having just made his comeback from an extended lay-off with injury.
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